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Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Privatize Fulton jail, GOP sheriff's candidate says

Looks like Michael Rary is searching for a way to gain attention in his underdog race for the Fulton County sheriff's office. The Republican nominee is proposing to privatize the county's troubled jail.

Rary faces former FBI official Theodore Jackson in the Nov. 3 General Election. Jackson, who ran the jail briefly under a court order, defeated incumbent Sheriff Myron Freeman in an Aug. 5 Democratic runoff.

Rary's press release comes after the jump.



Republican nominee for Fulton Sheriff Michael Rary today called for the privatization of the Fulton County jail, terming it the “only sure fix for the completely crippled local inmate holding facility.”

According to the so-called “Rary Plan,” announced today, the Fulton Sheriff’s candidate says the $98 million, 1000 employee jail operation is so broken that the only workable solution is to invite private prison companies to bid for control of the jail’s day-to-day operations.

Citing high employee absenteeism, poor jail maintenance, unnecessarily high costs, “sweetheart” contracts and almost ten years of Federal supervision, Rary said it’s time to privatize jail operations and use private resources to enhance courthouse security as well.

“The Fulton County sheriff’s job is less law enforcement and more of a jail manager and system administrator,” Rary said. “The best management solution is to completely scrap the current jail operation and start fresh with an innovative, private sector approach.”

Rary, former Chief Marshal of Fulton County provided security for Fulton County State and Magistrate Courts and as Sheriff would oversee the jail and security for the county’s twenty Superior Court Judges and other courthouse officials. As Chief Marshall, he developed an intimate understanding of jail operations and insights into the current system’s flaws.

“The citizens of Fulton County expect and deserve better than the incompetence, mismanagement and corruption that are endemic to the last four Sheriff administrations,” Rary said. “Of these past four administrations, two Sheriffs were removed for misfeasance and several high ranking deputies were convicted in Federal Court for corruption. We need a total change in the way the Fulton jail is operated and bringing in private prison companies will increase professionalism, boost efficiency and lower operational costs at the county facility.”

Rary pointed to the noteworthy success that communities like Sandy Springs, Johns Creek, Milton, Chattahoochee Hills and the emerging city of Dunwoody have had with privatization.

In fact, the history of private management of prisons and jail facilities is even better and has a longer track record than municipal privatization, Rary pointed out. “Municipal and county jails have been operated successfully by private organizations since the mid-1980s when Hamilton County, Tennessee and Bay County, Florida contracted out their jail operations,” Rary said.

According to Rary, private prisons companies successfully operate inmate facilities across the US and Fulton County is a prime prospect for this approach.

“Published figures show that nationally, over 107,000 federal and state prisoners or about 7 percent of the inmate population were housed in private facilities in 2005 and an additional 73,000 inmates were held in privately-run local jails,” Rary said. “Privately-operated prisons house a significant percentage of the inmate population in five western states, including 43.3 percent in New Mexico, 41.3 percent in Wyoming, 30.9 percent in Hawaii, 28.4 percent in Alaska and 25.5 percent Montana.”

According to Rary, privatization is the only real solution to breaking the mentality that plagues the Fulton facility. “Too many people see the Sheriff’s office as a cushy job rather than a serious occupation designed to guard public safety,” he said.

Rary cited recent studies by the National Center for Policy Analysis which found that jail privatization has significant benefits, including:

? Reduced costs;

? Improved service quality;

? More flexibility in hiring and firing;

? Lower cost of fringe benefits, particularly retirement costs;

? Increased efficiency with fewer personnel.

“According to the NCPA study, not a single private facility is operating under a consent decree or court order as a consequence of suits brought by prisoner plaintiffs, while about 75 percent of American jurisdictions have major facilities or entire systems operating under judicial interventions, including Fulton County,” Rary said. “Finally, the study notes that private prisons comply with the standards of the Commission of Accreditation for Corrections and have a much higher accreditation rate than government prisons.”

Michael Rary is the Republican nominee for sheriff of Fulton County. He has created and implemented successful programs to deal with domestic violence awareness, community service projects for misdemeanor defendants, private probation systems for State and Magistrate Courts, animal control and other cost and efficiency saving projects.

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